I would include my own photos but I think jude's post already has very detailed unboxing pictures so check them out here.
A lot of information you can probably pick up from jude's post actually It is $249 and about $260 after shipping. The packaging was sufficient and clean. No peanuts, hooray. It comes with a 3.5mm to stereo RCA cable, standard issue power cable, 3.5mm to 1/4" converter, and little plastic/rubber feet you can stick on the amp. I'm relatively new to Head-fi and headphone equipment in general, so if you don't want to read my inexperienced/limited musings, you don't have to. My setup before purchasing the Asgard was Foobar WASAPI -> Realtek ALC889 TOSLINK -> Yamaha RX-V365 -> Sennheiser HD650. That is all I have. If you want to make a suggestion for another pair of headphones you should in my lonely thread.
Things I've noticed about the unit itself:
- It does indeed get hot. At normal room temperature in a well ventilated room, it isn't really noticeable until it's been on for about an hour. This is by design and is mentioned in the manual at least twice and also on their website. The only part of the unit that gets uncomfortably hot is the bottom, which probably won't matter to anyone that isn't carrying it around like a boom-box (It's tempting, I know)
- The chassis picks up oil from your skin and scuffs pretty easily. I don't consider myself a particularly greasy individual. It's probably just the lack of finish on the metal which really is somewhat of a unnecessary expense when trying to keep manufacturing costs down. It looks to be made of brushed aluminum but don't quote me on that. Other than that, I find the amp itself to be very aesthetically pleasing.
- It's simple. Power switch, power jack, 2 RCA input jacks, 1/4" output jack, and a volume control knob. No extra doodads.
- jude mentioned hearing a "very mild mechanical hum" coming from the amp (from the transformer inside the amp, not in the actual output). I haven't heard a peep from it, so either the hum is very, very mild or I'm just deaf.
Things I've noticed about the sound with the HD650:
- Compared to listening to them through the Yamaha receiver, there is a subtle increase in bass. It still sounds very clean and tight.
- A lot of people negatively mention the Sennheiser "veil", particularly in reviews of the 650's, that rolls off the higher frequencies. I actually think it's a good quality as I normally get headaches/tinnitus listening to music for longer than a half hour on friends' headphones or those little cheapy ear buds that come with iPods, a problem I haven't had with the 650. I mention this because I notice the treble sounds much more pronounced through the Asgard than through the receiver. It makes for a less relaxing listening experience for me, but if you're one of those people that don't like how some Sennheisers handle the higher frequencies then I'd have to say the Asgard is probably right up your alley.
- Midrange feels weaker in comparison. This might just be because the treble and bass are louder.
- The volume control is very smooth.
- I don't know if this is even possible or not, but while the volume control is smooth it feels like if I turn it... let's say 9 degrees clockwise, the first 3 degrees increases just the bass volume, next 3 increases the midrange, then the next 3 degrees increases the treble. I might just be psychotic, but that's what I'm hearing when I fiddle with the volume.
- Even at max volume, I hear very little noise/static coming through to the headphones compared to the receiver at roughly the same volumes.
I haven't decided whether or not I'll keep the Asgard, but I should probably make that decision soon. A friend of mine kicked up my expectations saying that the difference an amp would make would be huge for headphones with such high impedance. There is a difference, but I can't honestly say I thought it was huge. I could say at best it's a mild improvement over my existing setup. You can find an RX-V365 for as much as $80 less than the Asgard and it provides much more functionality. Obviously it's quite a bit bigger than the Asgard but neither of them were really meant to be portable. However, I can pretty easily unhook the Asgard and take it to work when I feel like it (which I wouldn't even dream of doing with the receiver). I know $260 isn't a lot of money to some people, but hey I grew up poor so I try not to be extravagant.
The amp has a 15 day money back guarantee policy and a 5 year warranty. I think Schiit itself is a decent company that shows pride in their work with a sense of humor. Before you take my indecision on whether or not to keep the Asgard as a negative opinion of the amp, keep in mind this is my first and only pure headphone amp. You don't know if I'd feel the same way about an amp that costs 2 to 20 times more than the Asgard. Take these impressions with a grain of salt is really all I can say.
Edited by nordan - 9/10/10 at 3:19pm